Kaitaia students taking part in this year's Young Enterprise Scheme have come up with a technological innovation they say could save ratepayers large sums of money.

The teenagers, who call their business Mud Tech, designed and built an underwater drone which can be used to inspect boat hulls for marine pests such as the highly invasive Mediterranean fanworm. The fanworm is starting to infest Northland harbours and marinas.

The remote-controlled submersible is fitted with a camera and spotlight with images displayed on the operator's screen in real time.

The students, who attend Kaitaia College and Kaitaia Abundant Life School, displayed their invention at the Young Enterprise Scheme Trade Fair at Kerikeri's Old Packhouse Market on Saturday.


The fair is an annual chance for Northland's school-aged entrepreneurs to showcase their products to the public.

Taz Snelling, 17, said the team identified a problem with marine pests in places like Opua and noticed no one else was carrying out drone surveys.

Instead, the Northland Regional Council, which is charged with looking after marine biosecurity, was spending large sums of money on diving contractors to inspect boat hulls.

Taz said the team would meet regional council staff to trial their invention at Doves Bay Marina near Kerikeri next month.

The other members are Irimana van der Mei, 17, and Troy Panapa-Thurlby, 16. They are developing their business with the help of ecological education company Papa Taiao.